Your small group regularly has 12 members, but last week only 6 showed up. Or you invited 20 people to start a new group, but only 5 decided to come. Maybe those aren't the specific numbers you experienced in your group, but the reality is that these situations happen to every group at some point.
Here are a few keys for riding the attendance roller coaster.
"It's Not About You"
Somebody famous said that.
In the church, community is what we want, yet it's what we resist the most. So maybe people got excited. They signed up for your group at church one Sunday, but then life just got in the way. After all, the road to you-know-where is paved with good intentions.
Keep Them on Your List
If people don't show up for a small-group meeting, keep the communication flowing. Email them along with the rest of your group. Give them a call. It should go something like this: "Hey, I was just wondering about you guys [Southern: y'all]. Is everything okay? I'm not calling as the truant officer. I'm just calling because I care."
Chances are good that they won't slam down the phone after saying, "I don't want you to care about me." Who doesn't want that?
Concentrate on Who Showed Up …
… Rather than those who didn't. My small group has four people that attend regularly, with another five or six on the list. Last week, there were only two of us. By the numbers, my group is a complete failure. Yet, there are things you can talk about with two that you can't discuss with eight. Maybe you do the lesson. Maybe you set the lesson aside.
Before you start beating yourself or your group members up over low attendance, you need to do a quick check-in with God: "What do You intend for this group meeting? It doesn't look like what I planned. What have You planned?" His plans are better anyway.
Keep Your Focus
Remember this: your small group and the ministry of your group are not the same. Some people may never show up for your group. Or, they'll come once or twice, then you won't hear from them for a while.
Here's the deal: whether they attend every week or once in a blue moon, they are yours. The group members who meet three out of four times a month are essentially your small group. Everyone else is the "ministry" of your small group. There is a reason that God has placed these folks in your life. So keep up with them. Help them when they need help. Pray for them. This is not some clandestine plot to convince them back to the group with your kindness, but it might work out that way. This is your opportunity to serve, even if you never get anything in return.
In a perfect world, everyone would honor their commitment to that two-part form and show up for every group meeting. But, this is not a perfect world. Thinking of that flakey person on your list, you just might be their only connection to the Body of Christ. Their well-being is not up to you, of course. But, there is a reason why in all of the small groups around the county, they signed up for yours. God will show you why.
—Allen White is the Adult Discipleship Pastor at Brookwood Church in Simpsonville, SC. This article has been excerpted with permission from Allen's blog, www.AllenWhite.org.